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Gujarat: Wildlife board to discuss proposal to set up resort near Gir sanctuary

🔴 The meeting will take up minutes of the 19th meeting for confirmation. It was at this 19th meeting when a proposal by the Indian Railways seeking wildlife clearance to convert the metre-gauge railway line passing through the sanctuary was discussed.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot |
Updated: December 8, 2021 5:16:30 pm
An Asiatic lioness in the wilderness of The Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. (Wikimedia Commons)

After a gap of more than 14 months, the state board for wildlife (SBWL), the apex advisory body of the state in matters related to wildlife, is all set to meet again on December 16 and discuss a proposal seeking wildlife clearance for Wildwoods Resort, a hospitality project being developed on the border of Gir sanctuary in Amreli district.

Office of Shyamal Tikadar, the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), who is also ex-officio member secretary of SBWL Wednesday notified members about the board’s 20th meeting scheduled for December 16 and also circulated the agenda among them.

This will be for the first time since September 29, 2020 that the SBWL will be meeting. As per rules, the SBWL is required to meet at least twice a year. But no meeting has taken place in the last 14 months. The 20th meeting was originally to be convened on September 15 but it had to be postponed indefinitely after Chief Minister Vijay Rupani resigned.

Incumbent Chief Minister of Gujarat is the ex-officio chairman of SBWL.

Besides other matters on the agenda, the board will discuss a proposal of Wildwoods Resorts and Realties Private Limited (WRRPL), seeking wildlife clearance for a resort it is being developed at Patala and Gadhiya villages on the edge of Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (GNPWLS) in Dhari taluka of Amreli district.

WRRPL, an Ahmedabad-based real estate firm, is developing the resort on a 165-hectare land in the twin villages after signing a memorandum of understanding with the state government in 2009 during a Vibrant Gujarat Investor’s Summit. However, the project is mired in legal tangles as the project site, as per the state forest department, falls within the radius of one kilometre from the border of the sanctuary hence not eligible for a wildlife clearance.

However, the project proponent claims the site is more than one km away from the sanctuary. The matter is pending before the Gujarat High Court and while hearing the matter on October 29 this year, the court had directed SWBL to hear WRRPL. On November 26, the High Court again directed SBWL to hear the realty group and “to take up this issue, discuss the same after giving an opportunity of hearing to all the parties concerned, take an appropriate decision and accordingly guide the state government.” The court will hear the matter again on January 21 next year.

The meeting will also take up minutes of the 19th meeting for confirmation. It was at this 19th meeting when a proposal by the Indian Railways seeking wildlife clearance to convert the metre-gauge railway line passing through the core of GNPWLS into a broad-gauge line was discussed.

Members who are serving on the board in their capacity as subject experts had opposed the proposal opining it will be detrimental to the safety of Gir lions whose only natural home in the world is the forest. The minutes of the meeting, however, recorded the proposal as having been approved, attracting vociferous objections by some members who claim the 19th meeting of SBWL had decided to keep the proposal pending.

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